As we all know, medications play an intensely complex and ever-growing role in patient care. So it’s obvious that medication safety should be a team effort.
But I don’t mean just a team from your hospital or clinic. It’s a team that includes everyone. Let me explain.
Everyone has a seat at the medication safety table. Let’s do a quick rundown of who needs to be involved with medication safety and why:
- Patients (including their family, caregivers, etc.)
- Healthcare practitioners
- Health system leaders
- Healthcare payers
Notice who’s at the top of the list.
It isn’t someone with an alphabet soup of degrees behind their name or the person holding the checkbook. It’s the person with the most to gain (and lose) in this whole scenario – the patient.
And remember, we’re all patients!
You’re probably asking: “How do I involve patients in my medication safety efforts?” and “Do I want to?”
Those are very reasonable questions and in my opinion the answer is yes.
Historically healthcare providers (think hospitals, health systems, etc.) have adopted a philosophy of “it’s our system, therefore we must fix it.” And being on the front lines, they’re on the right path, but ultimately there’s a large component of medication use/medication safety that centers squarely on the patient. After all, the patient isn’t always in one of our controlled environments.
Think of the patient as the MVP on the team while the rest of us are the coaches, trainers and supporting players. Without our best player, we have a small chance of winning the game!
The coaching staff
At first glance it might seem that the above stakeholders have very different reasons for being at the medication safety table. However, their goals all revolve around 3 basic philosophies:
- Delivering quality care
- Reducing the likelihood of patient harm
- Ensuring the most efficient/cost-effective care
Inappropriate use of medications is a major contributor to inefficient spending. It’s estimated that $200B/year in avoidable spending could be addressed through more appropriate management of medications (thus improving outcomes and reducing harm).
We’re tasked to deliver high-quality care in an environment of shrinking reimbursements. With these implications it’s obvious why the coaches, trainers and players are key to addressing medication safety.
The MVP (the patient)
In today’s environment, there’s a shift of care away from the hospital, away from the watchful eyes of doctors, nurses, pharmacists, etc., meaning:
- Less oversight and observation
- Fewer safety mechanisms
- More responsibility placed on the patient, their family and direct caregivers
For these reasons, it’s important to involve patients in all aspects of medication safety!
Obviously we can’t bring patients to every committee meeting or focus group that addresses medication safety. But we can keep the patient in the forefront of every discussion.
Remind our colleagues that it isn’t about the “missed dose” itself but rather the impact that a missed dose has on a patient. If we don’t keep the patient front and center in all of our efforts, we’re setting ourselves up to fail.
Need some ideas on how to engage your own patients in the medication safety process? Check out a few resources:
- Premier Safety Institute®
- ASHP patient safety resource center
- Involve patients in safety initiatives
- Involve patients in administering their own medications
- Avoidable costs in U.S. healthcare